Teach Your Children How To Treat You

Sometimes when people long for the good old days, they're remembering something that didn't exist, fabricating entirely, or even just wistfully only recalling the good (but forgetting the accompanying bad).

But when it comes to the way children behave toward their parents and toward adults nowadays, there really is a significant difference between what the average mom puts up with today, and what would have been allowed 30, 60, 100 years ago. Whether it is sassiness, rudeness about a meal you just made for them, barging in on you while you're going to the bathroom, or thoughtless comment about your post-partum belly, YOU, mama, are the one teaching them how to treat others.

And yes- YOU are an "other" in their life. Which means this:

Stay at home mom, YOU have to stick up for YOU.
  • Being sassy is not OK. You are their mom.
  • Being rude and ungrateful about a meal you've (or anyone else has) made is not OK. They are to be thankful for things done for them, and realize that having someone else cook for them is a gift. So yes, this means, you need to be the one to tell them they should say "thank you" for dinner, to you. It may seem counterintuitive, or like fishing for a compliment, but no-- those are lies. You are teaching gratitude, kindness, and the value of work to your child.
  • "Please don't ever walk in on someone going to the bathroom. Unless your hair is on fire, you can wait a moment while I finish going potty, and then ask me your question when I come out."
  • A thoughtless comment about your post-partum belly is not intentionally hurtful, but it IS hurtful, and could be extremely hurtful if your child doesn't learn from you not to say that, and they go and say that to another woman. So tell them. Not in an ugly way, but tell them. Let them know, "I know you're just saying that, and you're right, mom's tummy is smushy right now, but you are never to say that to a woman who has just had a baby. It is hard work having a baby, and the woman's body goes through a lot of changes. It's much better to talk about how cute the baby is than to ever say something like that to a new mama, OK?" (Obviously, a 2 year old isn't going to understand this very well. But older kids can learn this.)

Teach children how to treat YOU in the same way you would respond if they said or did those things to another human being.

This is your job. Day in day out, you can teach your child what is normal, and acceptable, and appropriate for polite and pleasant interactions with other human beings. And the first place to start is often right under your nose… in the way they act toward you.

Perhaps you grew up in an unhealthy home, or you struggle to assess these things in daily life. If you're not sure, consider these questions: 
  • Would you let them treat a woman you greatly admire and respect (don't jump over that description-- picture her!) the way you just let them treat you?
  • If you were a missionary and they sat down to eat at a poor neighbor's table and reacted to that food the way they just reacted to the homemade meal you made, what would you do?
  • Would you let them talk to Bono, your pastor, the President, the bank manager, the Pope, your husband's boss, or Princess Kate the way they just spoke to you?
If you're still not sure, hook up with other godly Christian families and watch. Observe norms about how they allow their children to interact with adults. Listen to how their children speak to them. Ask questions. Lean in and learn.

I know it can feel weird, at first, to stick up for yourself. You can trick yourself into thinking that it is selfish or not right. But in actuality, by teaching them how to treat you, you are teaching them much more than simply that. You are teaching them basic concepts of respect of others, and how they are to respond to authorities in their lives (which they will have, their entire lives, no matter how rich or famous or brilliant they grow to be).

You can do this!

Teach your children how to treat you, and stick up for yourself. Teach your children respect and gratitude, and you'll be doing yourself and them a world of good.

Image Credit: stockimages/freedigitalphoto.net


Anna Wegner said...

So true, but easy to forget at times. Thanks for the reminder. :)

Bambi @ In the Nursery of the Nation said...

Great post! I shared it and hope many will come read your common sense advice. We all need reminding!

Kristina Seleshanko said...

But here's the kicker - at least in our family. We *don't* put up with it...but our kids still constantly do it. We have tried everything from time outs to removal of privileges. They are willing to put up with any punishment, it seems.

Anonymous said...

Thank you , I now have middle teens who have become rude to me at times, and everyone says "oh that is just normal for teens " and I DO remember clearly that time in my life when my Mothers voice just seemed like squeaking chalk on the chalkboard....but it just feels so wrong to keep overlooking their rudeness. I had a good grip on raising children but honestly never gave a lot of thought to teens, figuring if I raised them right as children there wouldn't be any issues as they got older..I begin to get a grip on raising teens TODAY !!Karen

Erin said...

We don't put up with it either, and those words and attitudes do continue to happen.

Our children are extremely well behaved in public and in others' homes, which was always our first priority. I think there is a comfort in our own homes where we all let our guard down and don't think before we speak...children included. Of course, those moments still require discipline every time, but they also require rational thought and understanding - and even a little grace.

Ashley T said...

Thank you for the reminder. I let too much slide with one of my boys. And when he does it to others it's terrible. It starts at home!! -Ashley

DueƱaDelBlog said...

Just wanted to say thank you. I am adapting this article for a parenting class I teach in Spanish at my local pregnancy center. Most of the ladies aren't believers yet, but this material gives them practical help they can use now as well as hopefully making them thirsty for Jesus' grace to more fully put it into action. (Even though none of them could access your blog, I'm still mentioning my inspiration for the class!)

Jess Connell said...

Erin- I wanted to give a little bit of push-back to what you wrote:

"Our children are extremely well behaved in public and in others' homes, which was always our first priority. I think there is a comfort in our own homes where we all let our guard down and don't think before we speak...children included."

Do you mean that external behavior in other places is really your first priority?

Cause, if so, I take the opposite view.

I would rather them, in their hearts, be kind-hearted people, and have that overflow into their actions with others, than to have them behave well for others, but in actuality, when they "let their hair down," become rude, critical, demanding little people who barely resemble their more public selves.

You may not have meant that. We all have become more brief and to the point, what with iPads and browsing on our phones and such, so I want to give the benefit of the doubt.

But I do want to make it clear that for my part, while I do not want them acting like terrors in public, by ANY means, that is not my "first priority" at all. Guiding their hearts toward kindness, self-control, and golden-rule-like interactions (even, and perhaps especially) in the home is a high priority for me, and I believe that will overflow into their public actions.


Anonymous said...

I would like to defend Erin's comment a bit here. I am a mother of 4 children, all teens and young adults. (We homeschooled for all of their elementary and jr. high years.--not necessarily relevant:)The transition of child to teen was very difficult for me with most of our kids. They seemed to have lost a filter and did not even hear how rude they sounded some of the time. These years have been good for me to learn how easily hurt and offended I can be. Thankfully, my kids are polite and respectful in public (and I would argue that that is a *very* important lesson to learn...and it also shows that one does have some self control and has learned general manners.)

I am so very concerned about my children's hearts as well...but I have had to let some stuff go, and let the Holy Spirit be the one to convict my child. I can take away a privilege (and that happens a lot around here) but a heartfelt apology can only happen if the Lord is working in their heart.


Jess Connell said...

Thanks for chiming in. I do think there's a difference between children and adults… but this post is all about how to train our children to treat us. So in my mind, and the way I read Erin's comments, we were talking about children.

I have heard moms of teens (and I remember my mom handling my mouth)… so I know enough to know not to "go there." I did hear one mom say that whenever her teen would answer something sarcastically or rudely, she would just look at her, raise her eyebrows and say, gently, "would you like to have a do-over on that one?" It gave her teen enough time to re-think the way something had come out and restate it, and gave her the opportunity to give grace while still training/teaching manners, etc. I liked that approach. We'll see how it goes once I have teens…

Anyway, thanks for chiming in. I'm glad for the dialogue.

Anonymous said...

I am certainly not trying to nit-pick but my children changed quite a bit in the pre/teen years--while I would consider them still 'children' in our home. I was totally unprepared and all of a sudden I felt like I had no control over the rude, sarcastic and disrespectful words coming out of their mouths. I had read SO much on parenting and thought that 'if I'd done it right' we would not encounter the kinds of attitudes that suddenly appeared. I was naive. (And, like I said this all started when our oldest was in about 6th grade...but 7th to 9th grade seems to be the worst, if anyone wants a heads up:)

I guess I feel a little defensive of a 'hard and fast' or 'just say no' solution (and I am not at all saying that is what this post is) and would have loved a realistic view of the transition of a young child to older child in a Christian home.

Also, our younger kids became 'mouthy' at a younger age than the older ones, which, I am sure, was due to seeing it in their older siblings. (It is so obvious by now-- we are far from a perfect family :) BUT we see so much evidence of the Holy Spirit working in each of their lives, I am so thankful.

OK, one last thought... ;) I have realized that I have a *very* sensitive disrespect filter...my husband is NOT like me at all this way. He actually thinks many of their comments are funny (and even accurate.) It has been so helpful to witness his humility handling our kids and also a lovely testimony to all of us to have such kind, lighthearted Dad and husband.

I appreciate this conversation as well and have enjoyed your blog over the years! Merry Christmas :)


tarynkay said...

I agree with this so much, and it is a huge reason that we are careful about the books and other media our small son is exposed to. So many kids books, movies, and TV shows celebrate snotty, bratty kids!

I would just add that it is not okay to comment on other people's bodies at all, not just postpartum women. I just can't think of a time when it would be appropriate. Even when people think they are being complimentary, it is usually just uncomfortable. For instance, my husband is quite tall- 6'5". People comment on this all of the time. He is not sensitive about it, but it does get tiresome.

Jess Connell said...

Most of my readers have young children in the home (according to a recent survey, over half have a baby under 1 year old)… so my posts naturally are geared toward those with younger children.

I am still figuring out and learning about the transition to having an "older child" and so I'm not in a position to post about that, yet, aside from a few successes with homeschooling (perhaps) or one-off posts here and there.

Perhaps this is part of the disconnect? I wasn't trying to deal with older kids & teens. My goal was to encourage moms with younger children to begin laying the foundation of respect early on, and not allow sassy comments and rudeness. I think especially for stay-home/homeschooling moms who are responsible for near-on 100% of the socialization of the child, it's important for us to teach these lessons… not to be overly sensitive, but to put comments in a larger context and be discerning about what is permissible.

TarynKay- you know, I never thought about that (comments about "tall")… those are the kinds of comments I would probably not even consider rude or uncomfortable.

Thank you for speaking up!